Clickstream Analysis: What Is It? And Do You Need It?
A fascinating article published by the Gartner group provides an interesting introduction to the idea of clickstream analysis which has been around for some time, but is now starting to come into its own as a service offered by large companies and consulting groups.
The "clickstream" is the constant flow of customer clicks on the links at your web site. This activity can be tracked through the information in several sources:
The intent of analyzing this information is that a web site owner can start to monitor customer behavior on the site:
- Access logs (your web server keeps track of every file it sends out)
- Database transactions (if you work with a database)
- Cookies that are placed on a customer's machine, and then compared as the customer moves throughout the site.
Clickstream analysis by itself does not allow you to track a named customer; for that, your site must require a customer to register or make an order.
- What route did the customer follow through the site?
- How long did the customer linger on a given page?
- Where do customers come from on the web?
- Where did they go when they left your site?
Even with specialized tools, clickstream analysis can be difficult and time-consuming. It is not beyond the reach of small businesses.
Recently, the European Union has created stringent regulations regarding the use of customer data. The Gartner Group actually recommends that businesses jump in and make use of this before equally strict rules are created and applied in the U.S. and Canada.
Clickstream analysis has a great appeal among e-business executives. Small business owners should take this level of executive enthusiasm with a grain of salt. Here are the sorts of benefits you can realistically expect from tools that small business can now afford:
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